Isaac Owusu is an athlete. But like many students, his career goals were not set in stone while he was going through the motions of undergrad.
Among all the uncertainty in his future, there was one thing that he was sure of, above all: his love for sports.
Owusu attended UTM from 2007 to 2011, dedicating his time to studying and playing football. Though the boyhood dream of being a pro football player was a thought he entertained, a career on the sidelines with a notebook and a pen was calling.
As students know all too well, a job after university can be difficult to find. A job in a field that you love might be impossible to find. For every person that tells you to do what you love, there’s another to tell you to be realistic.
But Owusu knew he had a talent for writing and a sports IQ better than the next guy, so during his fourth year he convinced then-sports editor of The Medium Chris Callahan to give him a shot covering the Toronto Argonauts. His work as The Medium’s “beat Argos writer” later turned into a beat UTM sports writer position when Owusu was tasked with covering all UTM sports for the paper.
“I moved up from writer to associate sports editor to sports editor in about a year’s time,” said Owusu.
He recalls taking any opportunity he had to spend time at the Argos’ practices, shadowing pro sports journalists to understand how to handle interviews with athletes, the way media scrums worked, and gaining any tools that would benefit him as a sports journalist. “Just being around people in the industry, young and old, gave me the understanding of the entire cosmetic of journalism,” he recalls. “It was a really good hands-on situation.”
There was an element that Owusu thought set him apart from other sportswriters: being an athlete. “I felt that a lot of the content I was reading in newspapers and on the Internet lacked opinions of people who have experience in the field,” he said. “I thought that if someone who was involved with the sport could speak about it, it would go a long way.” But it’s an area of his writing he’s still trying to get better at and one that he thinks will take more work before he’s satisfied with it.
After Owusu’s time at The Medium came to an end, he immediately went on to study sports journalism at Centennial in order to further his education, completing a one-year program that eventually led to an internship position at TSN.ca. After his time at TSN, CBC Sports hired him as an online writer for the 2014 Sochi Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“When that was over, I was finally in the ‘looking for work’ stage and I got with the Hamilton Tiger Cats football team, where I was their staff writer. A little more than halfway through that, I got my calling at theScore,” he said.
Owusu has been working with theScore for four months as the NCAA college football and basketball news editor, a job that requires him to stay on top of everything in the college football world in any way he can. “Social media is huge,” he says. “Staying in touch with what’s breaking and transcribing it into news, watching games and events, and making news or stories out of what I see.”
Owusu is pleased with how it has turned out so far and is grateful for the opportunity he’s been given at theScore. “A lot of times in the sports industry you find yourself covering a beat or doing things that you might not want to do or might not have interest in,” he says. “But being in the situation I’m in with theScore has been very much a dream come true and it’s been cool to do this so quickly following my graduation.”
For the aspiring journalist in any field, Owusu is happy to provide some guidance on how to turn a passion into a career. “I’ve got three pieces of advice. One is to never turn down any opportunity given to you, even if it’s something you feel might be beneath you or you might not be good at doing,” he says. “Also, even when you’re not getting paid for something, it helps to act like you’re being paid for it and put that kind of effort into it.”
His third piece of advice is that if you know that journalism is the career for you, studying journalism in undergrad is not a bad idea, but being educated in fields outside of journalism is important too. “I left U of T with a major in crime law and deviance, with minors in philosophy and political science,” he says. “Broaden your perspective with things that would help you enhance your journalism skillset—all the extra things you equip yourself with will help you to be a critical thinker.”
It’s common for athletes from championship teams at the beginning of a new season to downplay the success of their team in the previous season and instead shift focus to what can be done to improve on the season ahead. Owusu, like any athlete, says his goal is always to do better. “If you told me when I first started at The Medium that I’d be doing what I am today, I probably wouldn’t have believed you,” he says. “But at the same time I never thought that anything was above what I could do.”
He believes he is finally learning how to combine his athletic mentality with the world of sports journalism and is excited about where it can take him. “I would say I’m happy where I’m at, but I’m not satisfied. It’s a big difference,” he says.
That’s his inner athlete being voiced—it’s a part of him that will always remain, but at this moment in time, for all intents and purposes, Isaac Owusu is a journalist and his story is still being written.